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Untitled, by Douglas Wheeler, 1969. Acrylic on canvas with neon tubing

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More on Pacific Standard Time, currently on view in Los Angeles:

The Southern California artists who congregated together into a loosely defined group called Light and Space in the late 1960s have gone on to be some of my favorites. The list is an extraordinary one that includes Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, Bruce Nauman, James Turrell, Doug Wheeler, Dewain Valentine and, less well known but a friend of mine, Susan Kaiser Vogel.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego features many of these artists in their PST show, Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface. From the Phenomenal site:

Whether by directing the flow of natural light, embedding artificial light within objects or architecture, or by playing with light through the use of transparent, translucent or reflective materials, these artists each made the visitor’s experience of light and other sensory phenomena under specific conditions the focus of their work. Key examples of this approach include immersive environments by Bruce Nauman and Eric Orr, each of which produce different and extreme retinal responses; the disorienting and otherworldly glow of a Doug Wheeler light environment; a richly hued and spatially perplexing light piece from James Turrell’s Wedgework series, and the subtle sculpting of space with natural light by Robert Irwin.

In addition to artworks which literally claim the entire space of the room, Phenomenal also features a number of sculptures and paintings that function as prisms or mirrors to activate the space surrounding them. The properties of glass are explored in Larry Bell’s coated glass cubes and in monochromatic paintings by Mary Corse which are embedded with tiny glass microbeads.

Particularly hard to photograph, these works are extraordinary—deliciously ethereal, timeless, provocative. And for anyone interested in reading more about this movement, I recommend the show catalog as well as the book The Art of Light and Space by Jan Butterfield and Jim McHugh.


Stuck Red and Stuck Blue, by James Turrell, 1970. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego


Untitled, by Craig Kauffman, 1968. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Note: Another piece by Craig Kaufman concomitantly on view at the Getty’s Crosscurrents exhibit can be seen here.


Untitled (Space + Electric Light), by Mary Corse, 1968. Plexiglass, neon, high frequency energy. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Note: Another piece by Mary Corse concomitantly on view at the Getty’s Crosscurrents exhibit can be seen here.


#54 July/August 2nd Level Density, by Ron Cooper, 1968. Polyester resin, Fiberglas, and pigment. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego


Ocean Park No. 67, 1973, Richard Diebenkorn. The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection courtesy of The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn


Ocean Park No. 26, 1970, Richard Diebenkorn. Nerman Family Collection courtesy of The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

Pacific Standard Time, the sprawling art exposition that includes encampments at 60 different venues in the Los Angeles area, has already shifted the narrative for signifiers like California, art, post war, innovation.

The experience as it turns out is even more overwhelming and implication-rich than I imagined. (My pre-visit post is here.) And even though I spent my early life on the West Coast and am very familiar with the work of many of these California artists, the visual impact still has me feeling a bit too dizzied to offer a linear account. As Roberta Smith wrote in the Times, “’Pacific Standard Time’ has been touted as rewriting history. It seems equally plausible to say that it simply explodes it, revealing the immensity of art before the narrowing and ordering of the historicizing process.”

The image that comes to mind is an immense tarp laid out in the desert, an expanse of flatness that seemed inert. Then one day a helium truck showed up. Who knew? The immense and colorful hot air balloon, air borne and levitating over Los Angeles right now, is more spectacular than anyone imagined.

With my sensibility villi all still aflutter from a week of overstimulation I’ll just launch in and share a few highlights. A good beginning is the Getty (the organization that conceived and underwrote this whole thing) and the Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950–1970 show. Just a few words but mostly images.

And no better place to start than the two paintings by Richard Diebenkorn included in the show and pictured above. Very different from each other but both utterly exquisite. My partner Dave sat in front of these and said, “These two are worth the trip.”

And here are some other memorables:

This Mary Corse painting so subtle and reflective it is nearly impossible to capture it in a photograph.


Untitled (White Light Grid Series-V), 1969, Mary Corse. Glass microspheres in acrylic on canvas. Andrea Nasher Collection. Permission courtesy Ace Gallery and the artist

Ah. Bruce Conner. Finally this artist and his multifarious gifts are on display all over town (as well as at the Rose Museum in Boston). This early piece is a particular gem.


Black Dahlia, 1960, Bruce Conner. Offset photograph, feather, nails, paper collage, tobacco, rubber hose, fabric, sequins, string, and mixed media. Courtesy of the Conner Family Trust, San Francisco / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Ed Moses. In his 80s now with a legacy that is legion. This early collage is compelling as is a piece on resin.


Dalton’s Waffle #1, 1960, Ed Moses. Crushed newspaper, shellac, and wood. Collection of Jim Newman & Jane Ivory. Image courtesy of Ed Moses


Hegemann Wedge, 1971, Ed Moses. Powdered pigment, acrylic, and resin on canvas. Collection of Phyllis & John Kleinberg. Image courtesy of and Ed Moses

Ronald Davis and his gorgeous mastery of olored polyester resins and fiberglass. (Note: There is another stunning Davis painting on view at the Norton Simon museum.)


Vector, 1968, Ronald Davis. Molded polyester resin and fiberglass. Tate: Purchased 1968. Image courtesy of the Tate

John Altoon (who died way too young, in 1969), was doing his own Ocean Park series before Diebenkorn made the Venice neighborhood world famous.


Ocean Park Series, 1962, John Altoon. Oil on canvas. Permission courtesy of the Estate of John Altoon and Braunstein/Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Photo by Gene Ogami

Craig Kauffman mastered industrial plastics and his ethereal works seem to float in space.


Untitled, 1969, Craig Kauffman. Acrylic lacquer on plastic. Courtesy the Estate of Craig Kauffman and the Frank Lloyd Gallery.

Often referenced for his teaching at UCLA, Lee Mullican had an interest in spiritual dimensions and was influenced by Native American traditions, Surrealism, Zen Buddhism and jazz.


Untitled (Venice), 1967, Lee Mullican. Oil on canvas. Estate of Lee Mullican, Courtesy of Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles.

Sam Francis mastered the edges in this piece. (Another exquisitely understated and tonal Francis is hanging in MOCA Los Angeles.)


Untitled (Mako Series), 1967, Sam Francis. Oil on canvas. Collection of The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

OK. I’ll stop there for now. More, more, more to come.


The view from the Getty with Robert Irwin’s gardens in the setting sun